The Australian National University would be a very bland place if it wasn’t for the arts, according to Emeritus Professor David Williams.
Professor Williams says the art collections that the University owns and maintains help to add to the creativity of those who are studying on campus, whatever their discipline.
A new wave of casino liberalisation is sweeping Australia. The Queensland state government has announced that it is seeking expressions of interest for a casino development in Brisbane, and that it is considering offering two further licenses.
This move was foreshadowed in May last year, when it was announced that government’s “master plan” for Brisbane might include another casino, after years of lobbying for casino expansion by Echo Entertainment and James Packer.
But with recent research suggesting that poker machines in casinos are more dangerous than those in clubs or hotels, there is good reason to worry that the expansion of existing casinos and the development of new ones will only increase the harm gambling does to the Australian community.
The idea of a second casino on the Gold Coast has also been advocated by the area’s mayor for some time, with the Queensland state government giving qualified approval. A recent proposal for a new casino in Cairns has been granted a streamlined approvals process.
This news out of Brisbane comes days after SkyCity and the South Australian state government finalised a deal to increase the size of the Adelaide casino, with 505 more pokies, 95 additional table games and 300 new automated gaming table terminals.
Just three months ago, the NSW state government approved James Packer’s unsolicited proposal to develop a new casino in Sydney. The rapid expansion of casino venues comes after a less visible growth in casino sizes, with the number of pokies and table games within Australian casinos rising by 14% and 39% respectively between 1999 and 2009.
Governments are keen to tout anticipated benefits to tourism provided by so-called “six star hotels”, and try to downplay the potential harms arising from gambling. Indeed, it seems that “casino” has become something of a dirty word in state government circles. NSW premier Barry O’Farrell insisted on calling the proposed Barangaroo casino a “VIP gaming facility”, while the Queensland government speaks about “integrated developments".
This spin provides a clue to the underlying economic reality: casinos can promote local economic development only to the extent that they bring in new tourist dollars. When locals spend money at casinos, it drains income from other businesses, or syphons household savings into the pockets of multinational corporations and billionaires like James Packer.
It is unsurprising, therefore, that both the casino proponents and the governments that license them are keen to emphasise that they are targeting international high-rollers. In South Australia, for example, deputy premier John Rau claimed that the redevelopment would attract gamblers who could afford to lose “tens of thousands of dollars in an evening”.
But it is not only the super-rich who will be losing those “tens of thousands in an evening”. Entry to a VIP room isn’t required to lose big. In the pokie halls, machines are designed so that gamblers can lose A$1200 an hour. In NSW, pokies can even be loaded $10,000 at a time.
Given the impending proliferation of new casinos, it is timely to remember that the casino industry - and the profitability of Packer’s Crown Limited, and Echo Entertainment - is underwritten by locals who lose more than they can afford. In 2009-10, casino visitors lost over $3.5 billion in Australia.
Casino mogul James Packer is set to build Sydney’s second casino at Barangaroo. AAP/Dean Lewins
Most gamblers are locals, with international visitors making up just 5% of customers at Australian casinos. Most casino revenue does also not come from VIPs, who in 2007-08 contributed only 17% of casino gambling revenue. Instead, 40% of casino gambling profits came from pokie players, with the remaining 43% being lost in the main gaming table halls.
Given that an estimated 41% of pokie expenditure comes from problem gamblers - as does between 12% and 32% of casino table game expenditure - between 20% and 30% of gambling revenue at Australia casinos may be derived from problem gamblers. This, however, is under the doubtful assumption that no VIP gamblers are experiencing gambling problems. Casinos, therefore, are unlikely to be viable in their current form without causing serious harm to their best patrons.
Some acknowledgement of this is implicit in the agreement between the South Australian government and SkyCity. The agreement includes so-called “responsible gambling” measures such as voluntary pre-commitment and funding for the rehabilitation services for problem gamblers. As evidence suggests that voluntary pre-commitment is unlikely to substantially reduce levels of gambling harm, the funding for rehabilitation can only be understood as a partial attempt to rebuild the lives that an expanded casino will play a crucial role in shattering.
Might it not be better to reduce the harm caused by casinos in the first place? Such an approach, which seeks to prevent gambling-related harm, has been likened to placing a fence at the top of a cliff, rather than placing an ambulance at the bottom.
However, with new casinos proliferating and harm minimisation proposals such as mandatory pre-commitment A$1 maximum bets defeated - in part due to the casino lobby itself - it seems that the odds of an evidence-based approach to casino regulation in Australia remain long.
Martin Young is the lead investigator on ARC Linkages Project LP0990584: Gambling-Related Harm in Northern Australia. In addition to his SCU position, he is an Honorary Fellow at the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, and a Visiting Fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU.
Francis Markham does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
An action-packed 1960’s flick featuring a jewellery heist will be showcased Wednesday night at the Coombs Lecture Theatre from 7pm, as part of the Inaugural Gold and Silver Screen Fundraiser.
As for exactly what will be shown – that’s being kept under wraps until just before the film screening starts.
This is a PhD proposal seminar.
Bridget Browne is a PhD Candidate with ADSRI.
This paper is a study of the response of Paul Hasluck, the Minister for External Territories, and his Department to the growing crisis over West New Guinea in 1960. The paper is not another examination of Australia’s policy on Indonesia’s claim to West New Guinea in this era which has already been extensively covered by other historians. Rather it is an exploration of the fascinating solution that Hasluck and his Department proposed to the West New Guinea crisis.
---Independents’ Day: How independent grocers dominated the introduction of barcode, point-of-sale technology into Australian supermarkets
A report recently released by ANU reveals that policies aimed at deterring and deflecting refugees cannot be the basis of regional arrangements for refugee protection.
In comparison to the 2012 Houston Expert Panel report, which recommended that Australia implement policies to deter refugees from coming to Australia, the report released by ANU today suggests that such policies are likely to undermine cooperation among states in the Asia Pacific region and run the real risk of harming refugees.
Friday, 11 October 2013 at 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Theatre 1, Manning Clarke Centre, Union Court, ANU
Join Girl Rising to celebrate International Day of the Girl, presented to you by One Girl and the ANU Gender Institute. The event will feature a film screening of Girl Rising plus a panel discussion with Dr Victoria Mason (Politics and International Relations, ANU) and Dr Fiona Jenkins (Director, ANU Gender Institute). more»
Friday, 11 October 2013 at 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Semianr Room A, Coombs Building, Fellows Road, ANU
Professors Rendall and Sastry examine factors differentiating who returned to New Orleans among displaced residents of the city in the four years after Hurricane Katrina. more»
Thursday, 10 October 2013 at 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
School of Art lecture theatre, Childers Street, ANU
Maike Dahl is Silversmith, based in Hannover, Germany. Her work is centered around the theme 'silver for the everyday'. Inspired by modern packaging, Maike takes very thin silver sheets, which she then folds and solders together to make a fascinating collection of tumbling tumblers, bowl and containers. Maike is in Australia for a three month artist in residency at Sturt Craft Centre, Mittagong. more»
Thursday, 10 October 2013 at 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Law Lecture Theatre, ANU College of Law, Building 5, Fellows Road, ANU
This public lecture looks at why Qatar is such an active player. It outlines the sources of Qatar's wealth and the nature of its political system, asking why the elite, especially Emir Hamad and his heir Tamim, who came to power in June, pursue the policies they do both at home and abroad. more»
Federal politicians can rack up relatively large bills in going about their day-to-day duties. In the last six months of 2012, Julia Gillard had allowances totalling A$647,000 – that’s nearly three times her annual salary. Tony Abbott recorded $530,000, Wayne Swan cost $545,000 and Julie Bishop a cool $390,000.
Parliament provides these allowances to assist members and senators to carry out their duties as elected representatives in their constituencies. They can claim for legitimate “costs” of doing their work effectively and taxpayers meet the bill.
But parliamentarians often refer to these allowances as “entitlements” – as the covering statute is entitled – implying they are entitled to spend these amounts, which are paid on top of generous salaries, often without capping limits on their usage.
So what are they entitled to, and why the confusion?What are allowances for?
In previous times (decades ago) politicians did not have large entitlement allowances. Their travel to the parliament (federal or state) was usually arranged by the parliamentary staff (rail historically, then flights), and they may have had a small electoral office and a limited budget for mail or landline phones.
But as time went on, the range of allowances was extended to include a whole series of tangible benefits to members – including daily expenses, travel allowances, overnight accommodation, domestic and overseas travel, use of Commonwealth cars, electoral vehicles, hire cars, taxis or subsidised private vehicles, and even unlimited flags and national symbols.
In the last six months of 2012, Julie Bishop had expenses totalling $385,000. AAP/Dan Humbrechts
Reviewing the generosity of allowances may not turn out as we might expect. In fact, when reviews of allowances are undertaken they often justify increasing various amounts because of rising expectations about the extent of activity the public might expect, such as representation at overseas functions or fora.What are the rules?
The rules governing allowances are set down (in law) and are fairly prescriptive in terms of types of allowance and what activities can be claimed: domestic or overseas travel, cars, charter travel, office and administrative costs, telecommunications expenses and purchase of goods and services.
The rules are relatively transparent, require receipts for reimbursement, and are sometimes very prescriptive (members, for instance, cannot claim overnight expenses if scheduled meetings finish three hours before the last flight), and sometimes with fixed annual limits (such as basic electoral allowances, which range from $32,000 to A$46,000).
Since the late 1990s, the rules have been administered by a special section within the Department of Finance – the ministerial and parliamentary services division. It processes claims that are made by ministers and parliamentarians (or their private offices), and can if requested provide “advice”.
But it is not really an arbiter of what is appropriate – and so far as I can discern, only the Remuneration Tribunal can make definitive decisions about the legality or otherwise of proposed claims.
But parliamentarians are notoriously frugal and some are very tight; they’re not averse to getting the taxpayer to pay for their indulgences.
And given recent media coverage some are sailing close to the wind in creatively making claims about their political business. Recognition of this weakness by parliamentarians themselves has led to a rejection of any proposal that oversight should be handled within the legislative rather than executive (within the Department of Finance).Why the uncertainty?
One of the problems with the present system is that there is no clear definition of what is and what isn’t “parliamentary business” or politicians exercising their rights to interact with their constituents or the wider community.
Kevin Rudd enjoys a ‘community engagement’ AAP/Lukas Coch
Going into a pub and shouting drinks can be a community engagement; spruiking a book you have written around the country can be communicating your message to the electorate. Buying books you are interested in owning as a reader can be seen as informing a politician.
Taking holidays to the snow or sunny climes, or visiting desirable foreign cities, can be classified under the nomenclature “parliamentary study tour” to broaden the mind. Many state politicians take regular holidays at taxpayers’ expense and put in silly half-page “report” on what they have discovered (one once remarked that sandwiches were bigger in one state he visited than his home state!).
In one sense, what politicians claim is largely made up of institutional costs: running electoral offices and necessary travel to parliament and so on. But other areas are grey and left open to interpretation, especially optional travel, attendances at sporting or cultural events, purchases of goods or publications, and hospitality.
Where the line falls between personal expenses and parliamentary business is very much down to their own discretion. And unless challenged by the Tribunal, any claims made will be paid within the stipulated limits.
The public could be forgiven for believing that if a politician got away with one bogus claim, it would only encourage them to make even more outrageous claims – and there was not much sanction if caught out or exposed (repayment of the disputed amount).
And if both sides, or all parties, are at fault there is no mileage in exposing one’s opponents for fear of retribution, with notable exceptions when vengeance over-rides consideration of consistent leniency – as in the Slipper case.So, what’s the solution?
What else could we do to make the system better and less open to rorting?
Making the rules more prescriptive is one option but there are many eventualities to cover and rules can’t cover everything.
Another suggestion is to make politicians pay double if their claims are rejected – but relatively few actually are rejected given the lack of definitional precision.
Another is to pool funds to each party as they currently do with staff entitlements – so the party can prioritise their most preferred expenditures.
Yet another is to establish a specific oversight body. I doubt whether such a body would make all that difference – and could become compromised if it took a hard line against some marginal claims which could be justified (such as appearing at a sporting event).
When it comes to claiming expenses, there’s no real arbiter of what’s appropriate. AAP/Paul Miller
Schemes to allow politicians to transfer back into salary any residue in nominal allowances is prone to perverse behaviour and politicians hoarding resources.
So finding the appropriate balance is hard to do. Perhaps media spotlight is the best method of control providing the media regularly investigates and publicises excesses.
It’s interesting that many of the so-called abuses coming to light now are very old claims going back some years. The media at the time paid scant attention; and are perhaps only paying attention now when the adversarial politics of recent years has gone off the boil and they are bored with Abbott’s honeymoon period.
Don’t hold your breath over major reforms emanating from parliament on this issue – it is one of their juiciest privileges.
John Wanna does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.
A short film documenting the practice of ANU PhD candidate and well-known local artist, Amanda Stuart, has taken out the Yowie Award for best documentary at the Blue Mountains Film Festival.
The award adds to a growing list of accolades for the film, including the Best Film Documentary at the Canberra Short Film Festival in 2013.
Wednesday, 9 October 2013 at 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
School of Art lecture theatre, Childers Street, ANU
James McLeod is a mixed media artist who uses glass as an integral component in his work. His current work incorporates site specific photography with silk screening and enamel work on glass. James McLeod is an Associate professor of 3D Fine art / glass at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and is currently on sabbatical participating in artist residencies at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem, Sydney College of the Arts and the Australian National University. more»
Wednesday, 9 October 2013 at 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Law Theatre, ANU College of Law, Building 5, Fellows Road, ANU
Support your college representative as they compete in the 2013 Lions Oratory Competition and have your say on who should win the $400 People's Choice Award. more»
Wednesday, 9 October 2013 at 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Haydon Allen G052 (Quadrangle, near ANU Union), ANU
The Future Fellowship project, 'Cultural heritage and the mediation of identity, memory and historical narratives', 2010-2014, aims to examine the memory and identity work that visitors undertake at museums and other heritage sites in Australia, USA and England. more»
PhB student Harriet Mercer was awarded the prestigious Max Kelly Medal by the History Council of NSW last month.
Harriet is currently working on her Honours thesis with Angela Woollacott. She received the award for her essay 'The Responsibility that rests on our shoulders': Ideas of Race, Gender and Citizenship in Interwar Australian Feminist Activism.
The traditional view of health is a biomedical one – stop people from getting ill by preventing infection and treating disease. But a growing body of research showing that health is the result of social conditions has now gathered enough momentum to prompt a rethink about how social policy is made.
The largest and longest-running study on maternal crack cocaine use, for instance, surprised everyone earlier this year when it showed that poverty - not cocaine use during pregnancy - was more detrimental to the long-term development of children.
This isn’t the only research to show the insidious impact of social status on social, mental, and physical well-being.Social standing and anxiety
In his book The Status Syndrome, Michael Marmot argues that social status powerfully influences health outcomes through personal autonomy and social participation.
Marmot was the principal author of a series of longitudinal studies of the health of public servants in Whitehall in the 1970s. His studies showed a significant gradient in mortality and other health outcomes between those working in the upper echelons and those in the lower pecking orders of the British public service.
The higher we climb the status ladder, the more autonomy we have and the more comfortable we are participating in social activities and relationships.
Conversely, the lower down the pecking order, the greater are the stresses associated with everyday living, as people do what the system requires rather than enjoy the sense that they are in charge of their lives.
A similar relationship with ill health is clear with poverty.What is poverty anyway?
Poverty is a relative concept that is used to categorise people who can’t afford things that most other people in the same society take for granted.
It’s often defined by financial “poverty lines”: the financial income level below which it is agreed that someone is likely to struggle to afford rent, food and clothing. A commonly used poverty line is 50% of the median income.
In 2010, it was estimated that 12.8% of the Australian population were living below this poverty line (after taking housing cost into account). It was also estimated that 17.3% of Australian children were living in poverty.
There is now a large body of research that shows a very consistent gradient for life expectancy with those in the upper echelons living longer and experiencing less illness than those in each of the socioeconomic strata below them.
These gradients have been consistently shown in country after country including Australia.Not what you think
Most of us feel we understand intuitively why those in poverty have worse public health outcomes.
Poor people have less disposable income for nutrition, health care, safe housing and are less able to avoid risk. Poverty is often associated with single parenthood and dependence on junk food, alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs. Homelessnes is also more common among people in this group.
Poverty may play a more significant role in children’s health and development than early exposure to drugs. Anthony J/Flickr
What is less clear is how to deal with the health consequences of poverty.
The gap between Australia’s rich and poor is now increasing substantially. And the burden of ill health for those in poverty persists across the nation, especially among indigenous communities.
Would that burden diminish appreciably simply by moving everyone above the financial poverty line or do we need to make more fundamental changes?The social determinants of health
A public health approach to the health consequences of poverty requires an understanding of cultural and social participation, which begins with education.
According to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of The Spirit Level, education could have positive social and health ramifications right across the social gradient.
Their approach is known as the “social determinants of health” and requires stepping beyond the conventional biomedical understanding of disease causation by factors such as diet, exercise, genetic factors, and exposure to toxic products.
Rather, it asks about the factors that perpetuate status differences and exclude those in the lower echelons of society from feeling worthwhile and being able to control.Understanding stress
A social-determinants approach recognises the multifocal nature of human stress and its frequent social origin in the status syndrome; the more helpless we feel when facing a difficult situation, the more toxic will be the stress from conventional health risks.
This approach modifies public health thinking and action. It means that we need to pay attention not only to the income, tax and targeted benefits for those currently below the poverty line but should also pay particular attention to education, child care, employment, housing, mobility and transport.
It changes the aim of public policy to fostering autonomy and the capacity to participate meaningfully in a range of social and community activities. These result in benefits that run counter to conventional thinking about the causal mechanisms of disease.
Robert Douglas is a Director of Australia21 which is carrying out research into the issue of growing Australian inequality and its consequences.
Tuesday, 8 October 2013 at 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Sparke Helmore Law Theatre 2, ANU College of Law (6a), Fellows Road, ANU
For over three decades, Diana Eades has examined how Aboriginal ways of using English are often ignored or misunderstood. Illustrated with examples from her research in legal contexts, the talk will raise implications for the conduct of a wide range of institutional interactions with Aboriginal people throughout Australia -- including interviews, consultation, negotiation, administration and service delivery. more»